Nigeria Matters

Bukola Saraki’s Palace in London: One Sacred Cow Too Many!

Dr. Bukola Saraki was elected the Executive Governor of Kwara State in 2003. He replaced his father’s former political godson, Mohammed Lawal. The later had fallen out with Bukola’s father, and therefore, had to be shown the door. With the active support and some say connivance of the presidency, Dr. Saraki was installed as the Governor of Kwara State.

From 2000-2003, Bukola had held several jobs, including acting as a Special Assistant to President Obasanjo on budget. The President fondly calls Bukola, “Mr. Private Sector.” The name must derive from Bukola’s work at the Societe General Bank, Plc. By the time Bukola became Governor of Kwara State, he had attained the level of Vice Chairman of the bank. While it may be a stretch to say that the bank collapsed under his stewardship, some argue that his family’s influence on the bank at the turn of the new century marked the beginning of the end of the bank.

About 10 months after the younger Saraki was elected Governor of Kwara State, the House of Representatives summoned then Central Bank Governor Joseph Sanusi to explain how Societe General Bank overdrew its capital base by eleven billion naira. The then Central Bank of Nigeria Governor was issued an order on 3 March 2004 which gave him only seven days to give a satisfactory explanation regarding the bank’s activities. Curiously, no director of the bank was summoned by the House.

On 29 November 2001, Bukola Saraki bought a big mansion in London for four million, two hundred and fifty thousand pounds (£4,250,000.00). The house with title number, NGL805616, is located on 70 Bourne Street, London SW1W 8JW. The lease hold on the property was registered on 9 January 2002 with the land registry, Harrow Office. It was bought with a loan from Fortis Bank, SA-NV. The house now has a free hold.

The three story edifice has been described as a house worthy of a king. The house is not far from Buckingham Palace road. It is about a minute walk from Sloane Sq station. It would appear that Bukola has an obsession with gold as almost everything you can see, including door knobs, are gold plated.

Elendureports.com investigated this story in Britain, the Netherlands, and Nigeria. We contacted the Fortis Bank press office in the Netherlands. They promised to return our call. As at the time of going to press more than 24 hours later, they have yet to return our call. Efforts to speak with the International Dept. of the NBM Merchant Bank in Lagos proved abortive as the staff kept transferring our reporter from one manager to the other. Finally we were able to speak with somebody and as soon we mentioned our interest in the Saraki transactions, the NBM Merchant Bank staffer we were speaking with hung up the phone.

Nobody would deny that Bukola Saraki came from a wealthy background. His father is reputed to have become a millionaire about the time Bukola was born. Olusola Saraki, a medical doctor, politician, and co-founder of Societe Generale Bank in Nigeria, was a Senator in the Second Republic. He was a member of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). Bukola, according to accounts from people close to him, was in the private sector when he bought his London property. He was the Vice Chairman of Societe General Bank at this time. The implication is that while the bank was experiencing financial problems, he, as an executive of the bank was acquiring a multi-million pound home. The natural question that arises is: What did Dr. Bukola Saraki use as collateral for the four million, two hundred and fifty thousand pound (£4,250,000.00) loan? How much was Bukola Saraki paid as the Vice Chairman of a bank that was having financial problems at the time he worked there?

On March 20, 2003, the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) were drafted to investigate some allegations of fraud at the SGBN perpetrated by the Saraki family. Dr. Olusola Saraki, his wife, Florence, son, Bukola, and 9 other shareholders were dragged to the NDLEA on allegations of money laundering. They were accused of using depositors’ funds to buy shares at the ailing Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria, contrary to the Banking and Other Financial Institutions Acts (BOFIA). There were reports that the presidency intervened and the case never saw the light of the day. The money, which amounted to billions of naira, was moved from several bank branches in bullion vans. There are no records of these transactions.

The Societe Generale Bank was sent out of the clearing house in June 2003. By early 2004, the bank and its top management were accused of involvement in a thirty-seven billion naira fraud. According to a report in businessdayonline, the bank was unable to account for seventeen billion naira alleged to have been overdrawn from its accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria.

People outside the political cycles in Abuja have wondered why nobody from the Saraki clan has been brought to book following the malfeasance at the Societe Generale Bank. They point to the case of the former Managing Director of the Bank of the North, Shettima Mohammed Bulama. According to very knowledgeable sources, Bulama and Saraki ran their banks similarly. Bulama, according to published reports is said to have granted himself a loan of about four hundred and fifty million naira. Likewise, the Sarakis were alleged to have given themselves a loan of over four hundred million naira. While Bulama has been disgraced and faced legal problems, the Saraki’s are still waxing strong.

Societe Generale Bank was recently granted a thirteen billion naira bail-out by the Federal Government. Savannah Bank of Nigeria owned by former Governor of Anambra State, Jim Nwobodo, was grounded under mysterious and very controversial circumstances. The Federal Government has yet to bail-out the bank which some suggest went under because of interference from the government. Billions of naira belonging to depositors is trapped in Savannah Bank. What is painfully obvious is that the bank most likely would have received assistance to regain its footing had the owners and operators been friends of President Obasanjo.

Dr. Olusola Saraki, fondly called ‘Oloye’ by President Obasanjo has managed the unprecedented feat of installing his son as Governor of Kwara Sate while simultaneously securing a seat in the Senate for his daughter. The anti corruption axe has not swung his way because of his closeness to President Obasanjo, while Bulama is suffering because he was a member of the rival All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).

We tried to interview Gov. Saraki for this story. His Special Adviser on Policy and Strategy, Bolaji Abdullahi, told Elendureports.com that the Governor would not grant a telephone interview. Our reporter and the Special Adviser to the Governor had several discussions over a two-day period. The Governor, through his Special Adviser, confirmed to Elendureports.com that he bought the house on 70 Bourne Street, London in 2002 when he was the Executive Vice Chairman of the Societe Generale Bank. Documents in our possession show the house was bought in 2001. He also said that the house was listed in his asset declaration form at the Code of Conduct Bureau. While nobody has accused the young Governor of Kwara State of corruption and fraudulent practices, it still boggles the mind that he would spend so much money to acquire this piece of real estate in a foreign land when his bank was near collapse, with depositors funds trapped. And if as the records show he was still an adviser to Pres. Obasanjo when this multi-million pound house was bought, one would ask: How come the President does not see the corruption at his own feet?

21 Comments

  1. By now I believe the writer of this article would have laid his hands on the recent judgment of the Apellate session of the Election Tribunal in the petition against the election of the incumbent Abia state Governor on the constitutional interpretation of the status of Senior Advisers/Special Assistants to the President/Governors in Nigeria.

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  2. This article was poorly researched. The writer has allowed his emotion to becloud the legal implication of the substance of the research work. For example, it is important to state here that within the Nigeria legal framework, a Special Adviser/Assistant is not a public officer as envisaged under the relevant section of the constitution. Secondly, if the writer,s claim about use of investors’ money for personal gain is true, we should have heard or seen one of them (investors) suing in court as an agrieved person. If none of the of the investors did complain, one wonder in what capacity or whose interest or mind was the writer echoing. I concede that some of our leaders are irredeemably currupt, but, we need to use the yardstick sparingly and without personal sentiment not to cover the good ones. Please, employ less “busy body” like expression in your next article.

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  3. When exactly did Societe General Bank go underfrom press reports I thought it was late 2003..or is it that money was taken to buy a London house in 2001/2 and CBN did not notice till 2003 Doesn't CBN have any regular accounting procedure

    Does every elected officer in Nigeria have to dispose of any foreign asset or liability owned after election What happens to even their foreign debts, does election mean they can abandon them citing government laws not to operate foreign accounts I have enormous credit card bills and a mortgage, maybe I should go home and run for governor or senator in my state, Oyo, just to avoid paying them (joke!)

    Anyway, knowing Nigeria, anything is possible.

    Cheers

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  4. The issue at stake here is Bukola Saraki was an executive director of a bank when the bank went under and at the same time aquired such a stependous property in London. Nigerians should not loose sight of the fact that the former managing director of the Bank of the North has been explaining to the various courts and EFCC where all the money went and it is the same question the likes of Bukola Saraki should be answering.What is good for the former MD of Bank of the North is also good for Bukola Saraki. It is more than ridiculous for Dr Femi Ajayi in Atlanta to say that "Bukola was born with a silver spoon in his mouth". I am not suprised about this statement because each time these governors come to the USA it is the likes of Ajayi that organise all sorts of image laundering for them. The depositors of the bank have been short changed and all those responsible should explain what happened as well as confiscate/forfeit all their ill-gotten wealth.

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  5. quick comment..just wanted to bring to you your attention the fact that your website elendureports.com does not seem to be online…

    Awesome job guys but i think your searchlight should be direscted to JAMES iBORI that guy represents everything that is bad and evil in our country…

    Can you guys find out how he managed to buy a large stake in a refinery in south africa…buying properties is a only small part of how this guys steal public funds.

    If youu are a looking for a thief they dont come any bigger than james ibori….the king of thieves

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  6. michael is probably bukola saraki himself or one of his numerous apologists……..your comeupance for ripping the states that put so much trust in you would hopefully be the karma that awaits youyour croniesbenefactors and your government if you have indeed plunderd the state .Since it says that bukola saraki and other governors have become accustomed to viewing this site personally here is a message from a young Nigerian who trully cares about the country and its people….remember the position you have found your selves in(by Gods design) and realise that you would never have the opportunity to change the life and probably the destiny of a people as you have now….dont waste it because if you do history would not be kind to you……Viva Elendureports Viva!!!!!!!!!

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  7. The holy book says it is what comes out of the mouth of a man that defiles him and not what goes into it the foregoing came to my mind when I read Michael's response in this matter.

    Michael your response speaks volume about your kind of person I am sure you will have no problem messing up with shareholders fund if your are given a business concern to suprintend.

    We all know that all corporate entities are separate and separable from their owners however it is a known fact that promoters of businesses or principal officers of businesses are held responsible for financial mishap dwindling business fortunebad investment or in a situation where investors fund evaporates as a result of negative activities of the Ceo.

    Many years backmany rogue bankers and other pioneer corporate rascals had it rough because they converted money kept in their bank by other thieves militay generals to private use. Let me hasten to add here that those who were tried and found guilty were sent to jail not because there was justice in the system but because the military men wanted to teach those whole stole their ill gotten wealth a lesson. Therefore it goes without saying that Bukola may go scott free inspite of this glaring misconduct

    Michael in an effort to rubbish the matter at issue you condemed critics for not proffering solutions to problems. I will like to state here that any man that puts himself forward for election into public offfice has a game plan already it is either he wants to get into public office to better his own lot or to improve the lot of his people period. Whatever advice you may offer may not make any difference because the man has made up his mind to walk the part of dishounour or honour from day one.

    Now let me proffer a solution here for those depositors who had their fund trapped in Bukolas bank. Since it is a matter of fact that Bukola bought his house in London when the bank collapsed and there was story of capital flight facilitated by the use of bullion vans to God knows where; one could reasonable conclude that dipositors fund was converted to private use

    The matter could be redressed through concerted effort of depositors they should as a matter of urgency start networking through cell phone sms and through unsolicited mails to concerned parties on the internet with the ultimate intention to create a forum for the bank depositors. The main objective of this forum would be to retain a high proile lawyer in the United Kingdom whose brief would be to bring a case of money laundering against Bukola and should also admonish the court to have Bukola property sold in order to pay back the depositors in Nigeria who strongly believe their fund was tranferred and convert to private use in in the Uk. The Lawyer will receive a certain percentage of revenue from sales if depositor wins.

    We now live in a global village there is no hiding place for wrong doers .

    Godwin .

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  8. I think its time for us all to know we have problems in nigeria. I live in the states and its so amazing how government go after the wrong doers. Whats up with nigeria I think government position is just a way for people to accumulate wealth and asset dont get this wrong I know their lots of rich people even before they are elected as officials but my god are we crazy Lets take a look at the Alamieyeseigha's case a GOVERNOR going to jail common now we have to do something about this. I am hoping someday in the future I can stand up and everyone can see my head amount a crowd and they all stand up with me to make nigeria a better place.

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  9. people like the first commenter is the one that is full of bullshit. we see people in the public offices stealing peoples money and he or she is here talking of enemy of progress. i bet he is one of the criminals we have in the country that is why his mouth is full of shit here. who can blame him……well anyway what ever be the case here day of judgement is at hand we will all have to answer question over peoples money in that counrty one day.

    Well done editor. we appreciate your work on bringing to light the happenings in the country and i wish the EFCC should pay attention to your reports because there is no gossip without an atom of truth in it.

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  10. I'm totally amazed by the audacity of some nigerians.it baffles me when people like"michael" write and defend the ongoing looting with impunity that's going on in out country.If at all this young man is a nigerian then i guess our country is being punished not only for having criminals as leaders but also for having followers that encourage these daylight robbers.where's our conscience Please my people let us start speaking against these politians.Its time we start to crying out to the almighty to intervene once more in our affairs as he did in the abacha era.

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  11. It is indeed convenient to criticize people like me for standing up for what I believe in but the truth is many of the critics like Sowore student leaders or not turned out to be very bad leaders ..case in point Onagoruwa Babatope Oronto Douglas once a thron in the flesh of Abacha and Shell but now pallying with stealing Bayelsa state governor..I am sceptical about critics because they are also making noise to access the national cake..if Sowore and elendu is interested in probity let them go back home and contest elections like the great Governor Tinubu and run a state or local government and let us see them perform..it is so easy to criticize while u cruise around in Posh limousines in European capitals and enjoy life without NEPA NITEL and Nigerian Police..what is Sowore solution I am about solution not problems..and that is my bone of contention..I rest my case!

    Michael

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  12. Well done Brilliant report. Please keep up the good work by exposing those thins our leaders think are hidden. Michael is entitled to his opinion as are all other Nigerians. Omoyele Sowore was a student union leader and fought valiantly in that position and he continues to do so.

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  13. Michael in comment 1; thank you for affirming the Societe De General Bank is a public company. That means the executives are answerable to the shareholders. The fight of corruption is not limited to public officer — elected or appointed; but to save guide all Nigerians' interests.

    The executives of Erons and Tycos of the world will know not to use your counters for defense because it did not work for them.

    To answer your question about what these guys have done for their country. The answer is: Exposing cronies like you and your corrupted elected partners. Serving a country does not necessarily mean being elected into an office and looting the people's fund.

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  14. Nigeria may never see redemption if we continue to have the likes of SarakiBafarawaObasanjoAlamashieyea as rulers and Micheal(the first commentator)as followers.Yesbecause we will continue to produce more morally bankrupt rulers and more myiopic followers.The implication is that progress will be retarded.How on earth can the likes of Micheal tell me or any discerningrationale and reasonable human being that a special assistant to a sitting president is not a public officer;that an executive vice president of a bank where shares are bought has the right to buy a one billion naira house at the time the bank is collapsing.This is madness personified;the view of a deseased imagination.The issue here goes beyond law;it is more of a case of moralityof living and behaving like a normal humman being.Even a common goat will not abandon its property when it is expected to care for it all because it has a right to behave as it wishes.It beats my imagination how the people we call rulers think;honestly. People can seethey hear.How do you stop me or anybody else from stealing puyblic money when my predecessor did the same thingThat is the question that has continue to bother me.YOUNG Nigerians are witnesses to the unbriddled profligacy going on around them;what moral justification does anybody has to advise them not to steal when they become leaders

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  15. its become a frequent habit in my household to pay visits to this site to view your articles and time after time i am amazed as to the amount of looting that takes place among the nigerian political class.Surely a mass revolution is overdue in our country as we are not all gullible..I bet you hear this often enough but i'll say it again a big thank you for the job you do.God bless

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  16. Bullshit on one hand you have been making claims that public officers are acquiring foreign assets on the other u are sayong Bukola was not even one..a private citizen has a right to live his life the way he choses regardless of his future ambition..if u have problems with people buying houses u go and reside under the bridge..for God sake you guys appears to be enemies of progress daily..Bukola Saraki has done nothing wrong..the said house was properly declared according to him and he is not in the category of public officers when he bought it in 2001 or 2 as you might choose. The failing of Societe De General has nothing to do with this…this is a public company that is regarded as a legal entity seperate from its directors..may be an education in law will help u fellas or may be u are too regaled with overnite publicity and showmanship that u cannot even reason properly and simply again…you elendu report represents just that a report that is not backed up with facts but is based on a hatred for progress..cynicism of country and a fundamental distrust of your fellow country men..buy the way what have u gentlemen done for your country

    Michael.

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